What is a Smart City?
Most people don’t know what a ‘Smart City’ is, and let’s face it why would they care? Even the most simplified definition, like this one, taken from Wikipedia, would switch off any man or woman in the street quicker than a dodgy smartphone battery: “A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but are not limited to, local departments’ information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.” If you haven’t already blown your own brains out and get the gist of it, you soon realise that this stuff is much bigger than us, so probably wont engage with it. To quote The Smiths: “It says nothing to me about my life…” I met with my colleague Dr Lee Hadlington who sits with me and on the De Montfort University Smart City Project Board to work out how we can get people more involved in the idea, as we work on a plan to see how Leicester could be a Smart City*.
Smart City Apathy
An early public engagement plan had been asking people What is a Smart City? But it was quickly realised that it was the wrong question – given the apathy of the responses. What we now probably need to consider is that no one cares about living in ‘Smart City’. However they probably do care about their own ‘Smart Lives’. That is – how will any of this affect or benefit me day-to-day? One way a Smart City would work for you would be for you to receive the data that would make you lead a smarter life and reap the benefit. And remember ‘Smart’ in its broadest sense means nothing more than efficient, when all said and done. As we all walk from A to B, facedown, hooked to our mobile phones, we are often digesting the data we need as part of that journey. We might be following a map, for example, or checking the weather or seeing what time the movie starts, etc. So imagine an app on your phone that allowed you to make ALL the smart judgements – enabling you to live a smart life in one go? What would that look like? And if lots of people used this app and changed behaviour accordingly, collectively you could potentially create a smart city. Taking me as a real-life case study, a proud citizen of the city of Leicester, I have noted what basic things my app would need to enable me to live a Smarter life and, in turn, contribute to a smarter city.
Here are my immediate thoughts, but please think about your own (Smart) ideas because I am keen to hear them:
- Weather – am I going to get soaked on the way to work?
- Travel – If it’s raining, shall I take the bus? Are they full? Are the roads congested?
- Shopping – Which car parks are full? Where is the nearest car park? How long are the average queues in the Highcross Shopping Centre today? Are there discount voucher offers I could download?
- Eating out – Which restaurants are busy? Where can I get a reservation? What did the last health and safety inspection say? What is the average cost of a meal there and what do the reviews say?
- Events – What cultural activities are happening that I might want to go to? Will they cause travel disruption?
- Health – Can I get an appointment with my GP today? What slots are free? When is a peak time? When is the best time to get a non-emergency appointment?
- Home – Can I control my heating from my phone? Could I turn lights on and off remotely? Etc, etc…
The most interesting things about the basic data I need day-to-day is that it is already somewhere, and it’s all possible to harvest to be plugged in to an app for my life. It could feed into a Leicester app that could be adapted to my needs simply by turning on or off the data I need like a tap. A Smart app for me – for my life in a Smart City like Leicester.
Win £100 voucher or join a focus group:
I’ve made it sound easy. I know the policy makers at the top of the tree will have to enact strategic policies that make our cleaner, more efficient, healthier and better educated, but at the root, a Smart City would just need to give us the data we need to make it work. So what would your app for a smart life contain? Let DMU Smart City project know and get the
chance to win £100 shopping voucher.
*We are also running a series of focus groups in March and April 2017 to engage people in the idea of Leicester as a Smart City, please get in touch if you wish to get involved, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way… Peanuts/Smiths images can be found here – they are brilliant.